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Gendered Contexts

New Perspectives in Italian Cultural Studies


Edited By Laura Benedetti, Julia Hairston and Julia L. Hairston

The application of feminist thought to the study of Italian culture is generating some of the most innovative work in the field today. This volume presents a range of essays which focus on the construction of gender in Italian literature as well as essays in feminist theory. The contributions reflect the current diversity of critical approaches available to those interrogating gender and offer interpretations of prose, poetry, theater, and the visual arts from Boccaccio, Michelangelo, and Galileo to contemporary Italian writers such as Carla Cerati and Dacia Maraini.


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Leading the Pedagogue by Hand: Women and Education in Italo Svevo's Narrative: Giuliana Minghelli 143


Leading the Pedagogue by Hand: Women and Education in ltalo Svevo's Narrative Giuliana Minghelli ... psychoanalysis alone recognizes [the] knot of imaginary servitude that love must always undo again, or sever. For such a task, we place no trust in altruistic feeling, we who lay bare the aggressivity that underlies the activity of the philanthropist, the idealist, the pedagogue, and even the reformer. 1 At the head of a long procession of self-proclaimed pedagogues, the newly- wed Ettore Schmitz, armed with Schopenhauer, Marx, and Bebel's Woman Under Socialism, confidently undertakes the education of his wife Livia: " ... certo che se uno dei due avesse cambiato, quello non sarei stato io! Anzi volevo cambiare un po' mia moglie nel senso di darle Ia Libert a e insegnarle a conoscere se stessa. "2 Like many male characters in Svevo's narrative, Schmitz assumes that the woman does not know who she is and offers to teach her. But it could be the teacher who, in his search for recognition, needs the pupil and not vice versa. As Zeno observes in the Coscienza: "In fondo il pedagogo e incatenato peggio dell 'alunno. "3 By analyzing the ambiguous economy of pedagogy we will discover that the man's dream of mastery emerges from the experience of slavery, the need for the other's desire. So many of the male-female relations in Svevo's narrative are initiated by a pedagogical gesture. Zeno teaches Augusta the rights and duties of the ideal wife and Carla the hard discipline of "il bel canto,...

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